Vidalias were first produced in the 1930s, and were somewhat of a fluke. Farmers were looking for a new cash crop to see their way out of the Great Depression and so were experimenting with different crops. The sweet onion first produced in Toombs County turned out to be more of a novelty than a money-maker. A short time later, a state farmers market was started in the area and the local farmers took their Vidalia onions there for sale. People loved the onions and word began to spread about the sweet onions grown in Georgia. Vidalia onions became coveted gifts to take to distant family members and a name was born. As luck would have it, the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain was headquartered in Vidalia, and the man running the store helped the local farmers by putting the sweet onions in stores. The onions ascent to fame was well under way, and they gradually were distributed around the country.
Today the Vidalia is celebrated in an annual festival in Vidalia that was started in 1978, and on April 29, 2011, the Vidalia Onion Museum was opened in the building that houses the Vidalia Onion Committee, in (where else?) Vidalia, Ga. And the Vidalia onion has its own mascot: Yumion, who was created in 1980!
Vidalias are in season and delicious right now. This year is reported to be a bumper crop for the onions, so let’s hope that drives prices down and taste factor up!
Enjoy these great recipes using Vidalia onions, and put some South in your mouth!
Watermelon & Sweet Onion Salad with Feta and Mint
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
One 8-pound seedless watermelon, scooped into balls with a melon baller or cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks (10 cups), chilled
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled (2 cups)
1 1/4 cups pitted kalamata olives, coursely chopped (optional)
1 small sweet Vidalia onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
1.In a large bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, salt, Tabasco and pepper. Add the watermelon, feta, olives and Vidalia onion and toss gently.
2.Garnish with the mint and serve immediately – this does not hold well so plan to make and serve this yummy salad right away!
Roasted Vidalia Onions with Balsamic-Apricot Glaze
Two medium (about 1 pound total) Vidalia onions, halved lengthwise
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch ground red pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place Vidalia onion halves in a 9 X 9 baking pan; drizzle with olive oil, turning to coat. Bake, uncovered, sliced side down, until onions are tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer to serving platter.
3. While the pan is hot, add pan vinegar, preserves, salt and red pepper, stirring to mix (if needed, put pan over low heat on stove to melt ingredients). Pour sauce over Vidalia onions.
4. Serve warm or at room temperature as a delicious side dish to ham, pork, chicken or seafood.
I have not tried this nex recipe but it looks intriguing!
Vidalia Onion Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
1 cup butter-softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup Vidalia Onion, finely diced
1.Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2.Using a mixer, cream butter in a large bowl, beating until light and fluffy, slowly add in the sugar and brown sugar.
3.Add eggs one at a time, mixing until combined after each, then add vanilla and beat just until smooth.
4.By hand, stir in flour, salt and baking soda until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5.Rinse the Vidalia onions with very cold water and drain well. Fold the Vidalia Onions into the dough to blend. Drop by large spoonfuls on cookie sheet.
6.Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.